Essential things you should know
By Frank Furness
We moved from South Africa to England nine years ago and for four years I worked in the City of London. It is now one of my favourite cities in the world. Flattened and rebuilt several times in the course of its long life, London is a fascinating combination of the new mingled with the very old. It has been said that when you tire of London, you tire of life. There is plenty to see and do and is heralded as the theatrical centre of the world. Some of the great attractions include, The Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, The Eye of London, St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey to name just a few.
Oxford Street is famous for it’s shopping and if your credit card stretches far enough, visit Harrods, one of the most exclusive department stores in the world.
The transport system is great to get around with when you don’t have a car with the ‘underground tube’ taking you wherever you want to go. A one-day travel card costs around $8 and gives you unlimited travel on the tube and London’s double decker buses. A cab drive with the London Black Taxis is a great experience and if your driver is a cockney, you’ll love the rhyming slang language and their sense of humour.
Dining out is a wonderful gastronomic experience with different ethnic foods to tempt your palate and there are many good and also many not so good hotels to stay in and the small size of some hotel rooms are a disappointment to many visitors. Don’t be surprised when you see the prices, as London is well renowned to be one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Moving out of London, a short drive or rail trip will take you to the beautiful town of Windsor renowned for Windsor Castle, one of the Queen’s residences and Eton College where many of the Royals complete their education. The vast countryside in Britain is a wonderful sight to behold and the little villages along the way offer exquisite antique shops to visit, country tea houses serving fresh scones, jam and cream and interesting places to visit.
British audiences are wonderful, but you need to do some research. They are very conservative and do not enjoy talks that encourage audience participation. Some time ago, an American speaker who was on the same programme as me started his talk by asking the audience to stand and repeat, “I feel good, I feel fine, I’m fantastic all the time”. The audience was very embarrassed and his talk went downhill from there. The English sense of humour is very different from that of the Americans as is their taste in sport. The British are passionate about “football”, rugby and cricket and have very little knowledge of American football, basketball, baseball or ice hockey.
Watch the television, travel in the city, read the newspapers and then adapt your talk accordingly. Many of my friends from the USA have adapted their talks and consequently have been invited back numerous times.
There are many excellent venues to speak at, my favourite being the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, which is two hours north of London. Manchester, the home of the football team Manchester United also offers many speaking opportunities and is the second largest city in England.
Moving north, you will experience the warmth and friendliness of the Scots. When you think of Scotland you can picture a burly Scot in his kilt playing the bagpipes and I’m sure you must have tasted the world’s best single malt whiskey, which is produced here. Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful and elegant cities in Europe. Visit Edinburgh Castle and once again tempt your palate at one of the many restaurants on the Royal Mile. Plan your visit to coincide with the Edinburgh Festival and enjoy endless entertainment and parties.
Glasgow is the home of the famous comedian, Billy Connelly and also has numerous conferences and speaking assignments.
On the west coast near Ben Nevis, which is one of the highest mountains in Britain, you will find the picturesque town of Fort William. Take the steam train ride to Malaig and see some of the most beautiful and rugged countryside. Not far from there, stay over at Drumnadrochit and take a boat ride on the Loch Ness in search of Nessie, the famous Loch Ness Monster.
Aberdeen, the Granite City is on the east coast of Scotland with its oil companies and a base for North Sea exploration, also has many speaking opportunities. Remember to bring your raincoats and warm clothing, as it’s cold and wet.
If you have a speaking engagement in Wales, it will most probably be in Cardiff, the capital. Visit the wonderful little villages in Wales and experience the wonderful Welsh hospitality. It takes a while to become accustomed to their “singing” accent and it’s one of the most difficult languages I’ve come across, but don’t despair, all signs are in Welsh but in English too.
In Northern Ireland your speaking assignment will most probably be in Belfast, which is a divided city. On one of my visits there, I asked the taxi driver to take me on a tour to the two infamous streets, Shankhill Road and Fall Road and when I wanted him to stop to enable me to take a photograph, he thought I was crazy. Stay in the most bombed hotel in the world and visit the docks where the Titanic was built but most of all, enjoy the warmth and friendliness of the people.
Republic of Ireland
Southern Ireland has the biggest party town in Europe, which is of course Dublin. With no unemployment in Dublin, speaking opportunities are in abundance. The audiences are wonderful and appreciative with a keen sense of humour. They love stories and are some of the best storytellers I’ve ever heard. Enjoy the “craick” which is slang for partying and enjoying yourself. Travel south to Limerick and Cork for the beauty that Ireland is renowned for. One of my favourite experiences is travelling through the small villages and stopping off at the pubs. You will soon forget the cold and wet outside as you enter the warmth of the pub, created by a large fire in the corner fireplace, and listen to a musician quietly playing Irish music while you sip at your whiskey, wonderful! Also ensure you visit the famous pub “Dirty Nellies”.
Welcome to Hong Kong. How many of us can remember the old airport with the runway in the sea and the greatest challenge for every airline pilot. All that has changed now and Hong Kong airport is amongst the most modern in the world. A short train ride on a clean modern express takes you into either Kowloon or the Island of Hong Kong.
It is a country of fascination, history, and wonderful foods and of course the best shopping in the world. The main business district is on the Island of Hong Kong in the “central” district. It is easy to get around as the MTR underground is fabulous, clean, efficient and always on time. I normally buy an “octopus” ticket for HK$150 (approx US$20) and this can be used for a week. The hotels are first class as are the restaurants but be prepared, Hong Kong is an expensive city. Taxis are efficient but get your hotel to write out the address, as many taxi drivers don’t understand English. Most speaking venues are in the hotels or at the World Trade Centre and are super efficient. Do your homework before you go. I made some unforgivable blunders in the beginning. The first time I went to Hong Kong, I spoke to a group of approximately 100 Chinese business people. After the talk, many came to meet me and handed their cards to me, which I put into my pocket. I was politely told that I had insulted everyone and was then shown the correct behaviour. The card is handed over and accepted with both hands. You should read it, show appreciation by feeling it and making some gesture and then put it away in your pocket. Always carry a supply of business cards as the culture dictates the swapping of cards immediately.
As I travel to Hong Kong about 4 to 6 times a year, I bought some books on Chinese etiquette, which has assisted me tremendously. The Chinese can appear almost shy to start with, but they enjoy entertainment as much as anyone else. Your talk must contain many educational points, as this is a priority. The people are serious, professional and the hardest working nation I have come across. Never be late for an appointment.
If you enjoy shopping (like me), there is no place like Hong Kong. There are shops literally everywhere. I have found the best places to shop in Mongkok, which contains a ladies market and night market. Gadget junkies will lose themselves at Star City Computer Centre. Nightlife abounds with wonderful restaurants and bars around the Soho area in Central. Taking a trip up the cable car will give you a spectacular view of the city. Take a bus ride to Stanley Bay where you can pick up all kinds of bargains at Stanley market like a beautiful silk tie for about US$1.50. Visit Happy Valley Racetrack or take a boat ride to Aberdeen to see a city of boat people. Enjoy the “Star Ferry” from Hong Kong to Kowloon with the locals or take the hovercraft to Discovery Bay for a game of golf. One of my favourite places is the Island of Chin Chau and a half hour ferry ride will take you to the favourite holiday resort of the locals. Beautiful beaches, no cars (only bicycles) and the best seafood will have you returning more than once. Another hovercraft trip will take you to the Island of Macau, which was previously under Portuguese rule and still has all the influences. The Island of Lantau has the giant Buddha and visit Sea Park with its cable cars that will give you a spectacular view of Hong Kong and will take you to the world’s longest escalator. Speaking opportunities abound, so get it to the top of your “opportunity” list.
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Frank Furness CSP CFP is a professional speaker and trainer specialising in sales and sales management. He has educated, entertained and inspired audiences in 42 countries. His publications and sales CDs have been sold globally. For more information or to sign up for the free ‘Sales Tips & Ideas’ newsletter, email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone+ 44 (0) 870 240 6505. www.frankfurness.com
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